The Black Swan is an elegant place that exudes indulgence from every corner. Sandwiched between towering office buildings, the five-storied building is a glamorous landmark that has served as an intermission from swarms of suits and paperwork. In this luxuriously decorated chophouse, there are promises of excess in the form of massive steaks, platters of fresh seafood followed by an endless flow of cocktails and wine.
Sustainability and indulgence don’t exactly go hand in hand, but new chef Alysia Chan manages to marry these with a flourish. To be sure, this isn’t a die-hard approach to a zero-waste kitchen. Chan, who was formerly from Crackerjack and Meatsmith, envisions this as a way to waste nothing of great ingredients. What’s usually discarded finds another life elsewhere in a different dish.
It doesn’t involve crazy experiments of fermentation or studious blitzing of bone to a more palatable powder. It’s much more straightforward. Rendered fat goes into butter, vegetable stems are blended into purees and sauces.
Of bread, butter and dips
The Black Swan’s menu has all the fixings of a chophouse, but Chan has managed to weave in a few interesting tidbits. Housemade sourdough, made with a six-year-old mother starter, comes with an addictive dish of butter that’s whipped in all the wonderful beef fat from oft-discarded trimmings. A sweet vegetable ‘hummus’ sees broccoli stems, typically abandoned from lunch service, blended together with carrot leaves and pine nuts.
A follow-up starter, an understated dish of Venus clams, is a must-have. Each small shellfish offers the right amount of meat and creamy broth that’s infused in bacon bits and beer. More specifically, foamy dregs left to sit at the bottom of a Stella Artois barrel. It’s an inviting hit of light, crisp bitterness that cuts through briny seafood stock.
While Chan takes the limelight as head chef, the menu is also peppered with showcases of ‘hidden talents’ in the kitchen team. Sous chef Richie Tam, for instance, gets to work on the charcuterie platters. Selections are small but no less enjoyable. There’s a little pot of spicy ‘nduja spread, accompanied by guanciale and pale slivers of rich lardo — each a month’s worth of dry-ageing and patient waiting.
The chophouse selections
Alternative beef cuts are all the rage now and The Black Swan is a becoming a quick proponent for it. A Mishima Reserve Wagyu is available as a flat iron steak, a juicy and tasty cut comparable to a tenderloin. Vintage beef — from cattle left to wander pastures for a few more good years — sees richer marbling and meatier flavours, available as a ribeye or a hefty porterhouse. Steaks are served simply with a head of roasted garlic. There is a slew of good sauces to go for, though you’ll find the steaks good enough on its own.
Grilled lobster and spectacular sides
Seafood is worth looking out for at The Black Swan too. Maine lobster is simply grilled and sees a robust romesco and burnt scallions on the side. It comes along with a hearty ‘risotto’ of black barley and corn, cooked in fish stock and tossed with parmesan and cream for added umami.
A vegetarian ‘steak’
For a chophouse, The Black Swan has done rather well with feeding vegetarian diners (we remember a dearly-missed charred cauliflower steak). This time, Chan introduces the sugarloaf cabbage, a crunchy and sweet vegetable simply charred and topped with sofrito, scamorza cheese, and crispy quinoa.
When it comes to the matter of desserts, Chan goes for a re-imagination of her favourite sweet treats. Roasted pineapple slices are drizzled in rum caramel syrup, topped with a delightful brown butter ice cream — a refreshing take of a Tiki cocktail on a plate. There’s a cheeky homage to a Twix milk chocolate bar: A showy dark chocolate tart with white chocolate shards, swirls of chantilly and spiked cherries.
Black Swan is at 19 Cecil Street, tel: +65 6438 3757
Open from Monday to Friday, 11.30am – 11.30pm; Saturday: 5pm – 11.30pm